White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday the Defense Department advised Congress of the proposed transfer of two men from Guantanamo Bay to Algeria -- the first such transfer since 2010.
The announcement came one day after William Lietzau -- deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee policy and rule of law -- told his staff that he will leave his post by Sept. 1, The Miami Herald reported.
Administration officials said the two events were not related but the coincidence has sparked talk over whether this was the first step toward President Barack Obama's first-term pledge of closing the controversial tropical prison.
"As the president has said, the United States remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," Carney said Friday.
"We continue to call on Congress to join us in supporting these efforts by lifting the current restrictions that significantly limit our ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, even those who have been approved for transfer," he said.
"We'd heard wonderful words before, but the transfers were the evidence we'd been waiting for," said Andrea Prasow, senior counter-terror counsel at Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.
"It's not so much the individual," she said of Lietzau's resignation, "but that it would seem to make sense to bring in a new envoy with a new policy."